Israelis rally against Gaza plan (BBC) 01/30/05 18:41 GMT)
BBC} BRITISH BROADCASTING COMPANY
BBC} BRITISH BROADCASTING COMPANY Articles-Index-Top
More than 130,000 people have gathered outside the Israeli parliament
to protest against plans to withdraw Jewish settlers from the Gaza
Demonstrators called on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to hold a
referendum on the withdrawal, set to begin this year.
Mr Sharon´s controversial plan has cleared a number of political
obstacles but opposition to it remains strong.
Earlier on Sunday, Israel said it was ready to transfer several West
Bank towns back to Palestinian control.
Political battle ´lost´
The Council for Jewish Settlers in the West Bank and Gaza - Yesha -
said it was "surprised by the size of the turnout" on Sunday night,
AFP news agency reported.
A huge banner reading "Let the people decide" hung over a stage set
up for speakers to address the crowd.
Other signs among the crowd read "Sharon is tearing the Israeli
"When an Israeli government wants to pass such a difficult process,
involving the expulsion of people from their homes, it can´t do this
in a fearful and capricious way, but should carry it out in a true
democratic fashion," Bentsi Lieberman, head of Yesha, was quoted by
the Associated Press news agency as saying.
Commentators say the demand for a national referendum on the
withdrawal indicates a growing recognition by the settlers that the
political battle is lost.
Earlier this month, the pro-withdrawal Labour Party joined Mr
Sharon´s fragile coalition government, restoring the prime minister´s
majority in the Knesset (parliament).
Mr Sharon´s plan entails removing 8,000 settlers and the troops who
protect them from Gaza and four West Bank enclaves, while keeping
control of Gaza´s borders, coastline and airspace.
Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz said on Sunday that Israel was
ready to transfer control of several West Bank towns to Palestinian
forces in the coming days.
Mr Mofaz and Palestinian security chief Mohammed Dahlan worked out
details of the handover in talks on Saturday, which were described
Palestinian forces began taking control of security in Gaza last week
after militants agreed to an informal ceasefire. (© BBC MMV 01/30/05)
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY